Photo of the Day #40 
Friday, August 8, 2008, 12:59 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

If we read a recent article in the EU Observer we can see what happens when nearly the nearly thirty member state of the European Union can’t coordinate their foreign policy.

“Twenty EU states will begin welcoming Kosovo passport holders after Pristina started issuing the new documents on Wednesday (30 July). Slovakia will not allow entry however, while the six other EU countries that do not recognize Kosovo have not made their position clear.”

Can we has passports? Kosovo 2005 © Damaso Reyes

Countries including Spain, Greece and Portugal have not recognized Kosovo as an independent nation. The problem of course is that most countries in the E.U. are members of the borderless Schengen treaty zone which allows for free travel. So someone can legally enter Germany with their Kosovo passport but they can’t go to Spain even though there is no border control.

The issue of Kosovo is a prime example of why the E.U. needs a coherent foreign policy and the dangers of one. Nations like Spain with its Basque separatists don’t want to recognize Kosovo because they don’t want their own people getting any fancy ideas. At the same time it is clearly untenable that most of the E.U. recognizes Kosovo and a few don’t. I imagine at some point soon all the E.U. will have formal relations with Kosovo.
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Photo of the Day #39 
Thursday, August 7, 2008, 13:51 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Since immigration is one of the core themes of my project it makes sense that we talk about it quite a bit. I think it is hard to underestimate the transformative effect that a borderless Europe is having. An article in Der Spiegel talks about how many Eastern Europeans are now choosing to stay home rather than go abroad. The torpid state of the economy in many western countries is a part of it but the fact that many nations in the E.U. are so hostile to immigrants is surely another.

Me and my friends are leaving, goodbye! Cologne 2007 © Damaso Reyes

“Now, though, the debate may be changing. Indeed, should the economic downturn prove short-lived the UK and other Western European countries may eventually be wondering how they can attract more workers from the east. The outflow of laborers from countries like Poland may already be reversing.

“According to recent survey conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) in Warsaw, only half as many Poles are willing to work abroad as in 2004. Furthermore, UK government statistics indicate that the numbers of work permits issued to Eastern European immigrants dropped by 10 percent in 2007 against 2006. In the first quarter of this year, the number of permit applicants under the UK's Worker Registration Scheme -- which was set up in 2004 to regulate the inflow of workers from the new member states -- was the lowest it has been since the first quarter of 2005.”

Clearly this will have a negative impact on western economies. As much as foreigners are often maligned and blamed for the ills of society their cheap labor helps keep those same economies afloat. How long will it be before these same nations are begging for immigrant labor?

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Photo of the Day #38 
Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 11:07 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

We’ve been kinda down on the state of the discussion surrounding immigration in Europe lately but lo and behold there is actually a positive piece in the Guardian! The author interviewed twelve children who had recently immigrated to the U.K. and asked about their experiences. What’s nice about this piece is that we actually hear the voices of the immigrants, something very rare in the mainstream media.

Speaking truth to power! © Damaso Reyes

It’s a great piece and I encourage you all to check out the full text but here is one part:

Oliwia, 13, moved from her two-bedroom flat in Slupsk, Poland, in 2006 with her mother, who was looking for work. They now rent a room in Harrow, northwest London. Her mother works as a cleaner and studies English at college. Oliwia goes to school in Hounslow.

How did you find out you were moving to the UK?

My auntie was living in England and when she came back to visit us my mum said, just for a joke, that we would move there too. Then my mum thought about it seriously. She showed me our tickets and I opened my eyes and I was like: 'It's my dream come true.'

Why did you move?

In Poland they don't want that many people to work if they're quite old. Over here you can do whatever work you like. My mum doesn't speak English well so she's a cleaner now, but she's learning English so she can look for other work. She'd like to work in a shop.

What happened the day you left?

Grandma and grandpa took us to the airport. I had a diary and my mum wrote me a message saying that on this day our lives would change completely. It was really nice but quite sad.

What was your old home like?

I lived in a flat at the top and I had my own room. It was about 20km to the beach. In the summer holidays we'd go to the seaside.

How was your first day at school?

My first day was scary. I didn't speak English well so I didn't understand a lot, but it was fun.

What are the other children like?

In Poland you only have people from Poland but here you have people from all different countries. Some people are racist; I tell them to stop or I just ignore them.

What do you like most about living here?

Fast food. It's really cheap but it's so tasty.

What do you miss most about home?

My grandma and my grandpa. I used to spend all of my summer holidays with them.

Where will you live when you grow up?

Maybe somewhere really hot but maybe not, because then there's a lot of spiders, so I think this is the best country because it's quite warm.

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Photo of the Day #37 
Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 13:56 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Today we look toward Italy and the issue of immigration. We’ve talked about demographics before but it bears repeating the Western Europe need immigrants and lots of them. But many nations are very resistant to what they see as the endless flood of immigrants which threatens to overwhelm them and with paragraphs like this one from an article in the IHT it is no wonder.

“About 800 illegal immigrants landed in Southern Italy on Thursday, with emergency services warning that already crowded holding centers were near collapse in a country that had declared an immigration emergency.”

Without a deep and far reaching discussion about the benefits and costs of immigration an atmosphere of intolerance can prevail leading to a paragraph in today’s second article found in Der Spegiel.

“Authored by Thomas Hammarberg of the Council of Europe -- a human rights watchdog not connected to the European Union -- the report dished up searing criticism of Italy for its treatment of the Roma and Sinti minority population as well as its highly restrictive immigration policies. In particular, Hammarberg lambasted Italy for using "security concerns" to justify its actions.”

Just another Austrian. © Damaso Reyes

The question of course is what is to be done? How should Europe be handling its immigration? Perhaps more importantly how can Europe integrate those who come to it seeking a better life? To me it is a question of seeing immigrants with new eyes. At some point Europeans have to accept that immigrants are part of their society and not outsiders who somehow don’t belong. That has to be the first step. There are examples of plenty of societies which can successfully integrate their immigrant populations but clearly more work needs to be done…

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Photo of the Day #36 
Monday, August 4, 2008, 11:40 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

As most of you know, the newspaper, not to mention magazine business, is in serious trouble. Papers are laying off stay (including photographers) and cutting the number of editorial pages they run. Throughout my career I have noticed a decline in the number of opportunities and jobs I have been able to find. An interesting article in the Columbia Journalism Review talks about the trends.

My competition. Vienna 2008© Damaso Reyes

“Photographic storytellers are competing with the millions-strong army of amateur photographers whose work is housed on Flickr, which editors cull for cheap or free images, and the rise of amateur-supplied agencies, including iStockphoto—owned by the largest stock agency of them all, Getty Images. There are also outlets that claim to separate the digital wheat from the chaff, like PhotoShelter, a “global stock marketplace,” or the jpg Magazine, which threshes out a few hundred images submitted by Web amateurs and publishes them on paper. As Magnum photographer Chris Anderson glumly puts it, he and other professionals are ‘watching the decline of editorial sales of images, both what we are assigned to produce and the buying of editorial images—and I am waiting for that moment when that decline drops straight off a cliff.’”

Clearly there is a need for professional photographers and amateurs can’t replace the training and dedication we have (it’s the same reason bloggers can’t replace investigative journalists). To report on the most important and least covered events around the world takes patience and dedication, something someone on their holiday usually doesn’t have.

Now this doesn’t mean that the economic environment will continue to support our activities. I do believe that a time will come very soon when things do “fall off a cliff.” In twenty years the (much diminished) ranks of photojournalists may very well consist of the Top 1% who actually get paid assignments from whatever is left of the mainstream media and “trustafarians” who can pay their own way. The idea that someone who grea up poor like I did can become a successful international photojournalist may very well not exist by the time I have children, whenever that day comes.

I need a drink!

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HCB Quote of the Week #46 
Saturday, August 2, 2008, 14:46 - Commentary

One month form now I will be in France, woo hoo! I know you are just as excited as I am for me to be back out in the field. Of course there is lots to do between now and then so I will leave you with your HCB Quote of the Week!

Silence is golden! Berlin 2007 © Damaso Reyes

In a portrait, I’m looking for the silence in somebody.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Photo of the Day #35 
Friday, August 1, 2008, 13:19 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

“In a very real sense, 2009, not 1992, truly will be the ‘hour of Europe.’ By that I mean that if the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Britain and the president of France -- backed by their counterparts in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia -- were to walk into the White House on Jan. 21 and propose serious, realistic new contributions to, say, the war in Afghanistan, the reconstruction of Iraq, the nuclear negotiations with Iran and perhaps even climate change, the White House would listen,” so writes Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.

Thinking in The Hague… © Damaso Reyes

One of the main rationales for the European Union is to serve as a counterweight to the United States but while Europe has done a great job at coming together economically it has done a pretty dismal one of doing so on the political level, especially when it comes to foreign affairs (see the Iraq War).

But the new generation of European leadership including Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown seem to be interested in finding a way of working together rather than pursuing their individual national interests.

The question is can they see the forest for the trees?

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Photo of the Day #34 
Thursday, July 31, 2008, 14:07 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

So it seems like at least one European leader is taking my advice and pushing for a more democratic process when it comes to the future of the European Union. Spiegel reports on France’s move to allow its citizens to directly vote on future E.U. enlargement and other matters of import.

Is this the right box? No one knows for sure… Amsterdam 2005 © Damaso Reyes

This of course is a good thing even though E.U. voters have rejected a constitution the three times they had a chance to vote for it. This change will hopefully mean that European leaders and those interested in a more closely integrated Europe will actually try to engage their public and convince them that a healthy E.U. is in their best interest.

It will also force those who wish to join the E.U. including Turkey to make their case more forcefully and directly, lobbying voters instead of bureaucrats. The more people see the benefits of discussion and dialogue when it comes to the future of Europe the more average people will feel as though they have a voice and that their consent should not be taken for granted..

Courtesy of Der Spiegel

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Photo of the Day #33 
Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 12:24 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Oh no!

“The iconic British pint is fast losing ground as the national drink, with a report out Monday showing beer sales in pubs slumping to their lowest level since the Great Depression,” the Associated Press is reporting!

An endangered species? © Damaso Reyes

Whatever you may think of British cuisine their beer is spot on. But it seems like a number of factors are moving people away from the pub which is now “endangered” and off to…

The local pub seems to be such an important part of British culture it is hard to imagine it disappearing. Whether it is after work drinks with the lads or a wake, Brits love their pubs. But good cheap wine from the Continent and the new smoking ban seem to be getting people to drink less.

Oh, the humanity!

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Photo of the Day #33 
Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 12:12 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Most of the photographers I know, myself included, are in this business not to make money, although every once in a while it would be nice. We are photojournalists because we are passionate about our craft and want to change the world through it. There is a great article about photographer Ed Kashi on the Popular Photography website that you should read when you have a chance.

What was that? I still can’t hear you… London 2005 © Damaso Reyes

The article talks about advocacy journalism, something of a dirty term in America but embraced in much of the rest of the world. I think some journalists fear that if you are an advocate you lose your objectivity and therefore cannot reliably inform your readers about what is going on.

This is an idea that I reject. While it is true you can lose your perspective, often times to take the time and energy to work on an important story (often without funding or support) you must be passionate. In order to get these images in front of the eyes of the people who need to see them you often need the passion of an advocate.

Personally I think the key is to be as passionate as you want to be but not to beat your viewers over the head with what they are “supposed” to learn. I think subtly is something much overlooked by far too many photographers. I think you can be passionate and an advocate and still make photographs that inform the public and inspire change but at the same time are nuanced.

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Photo of the Day #32 
Monday, July 28, 2008, 11:14 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

It seems like while we Americans are trying to burnish our image abroad, our cousins across the pond are tarnishing theirs. An interesting article in the Guardian explores how British tourists are perceived in the rest of Europe; especially in Greece which has become a bit party destination. While Europe is much less uptight about alcohol than America (could you imagine a temperance movement in France for instance) alcohol abuse, especially among the young is a growing cause for concern.

One more please… © Damaso Reyes

Do you have any experiences with hordes of Brits descending on your village?

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HCB Quote of the Week #45 
Saturday, July 26, 2008, 19:35 - Commentary

I really enjoy these long summer days. There is something special about this city during this season and I am truly soaking it in. I hope that summer is treating you well wherever you are. Here is your HCB Quote of the Week!

Anna in Central Park. © Damaso Reyes

Photography, for me is a supreme moment captured with a single shot. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Photo of the Day #31 
Friday, July 25, 2008, 12:35 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

Did you see?

Obama rocked the house in Berlin yesterday and everybody is talking about it!

Flying in Berlin, 2006. © Damaso Reyes

While the speech may have not been as specific as people would have liked (this was not the point of the speech, but that is besides the point) it was pitch perfect in terms of the broad ideas that an American politician should be conveying to Europe.

"The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down," Obama told a crowd of more than 200,000 in the heart of Berlin.

Edmund Stoiber, the honorary head of Germany's Christian Social Union party -- the Bavarian sister party to the conservative Christian Democrats -- and former governor of the state of Bavaria, admitted to being impressed by the speech. "The young senator embodies what many people yearn for: charisma and leadership," Stoiber told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But German politicians will also have trouble meeting his demand to assume more common responsibility for global problems in the world. America is relying on Germany and Europe. This strengthens the trans-Atlantic bridge."

A sign of things to come?

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Photo of the Day #30 
Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 12:32 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

It is sad when you look forward to meetings as a method to get away from your desk.

But this summer I have spent far more time at the keyboard than behind the camera. As many, many others have stated before me the digitalization of photography has been a blessing and a curse. On the one hand I edited and output a family portrait for a friend in about 15 minutes; on the other hand in order to do research or for that matter keep in touch with people around the globe I am stuck at my desk.

Just one more email… Stuttgart 2007 © Damaso Reyes

I am very much looking forward to get back out into the field at the end of next month. In the meantime I will be shooting around the city over the next few days which will be a nice break from the desk…

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Photo of the Day #29 
Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 13:20 - Commentary, Photo of the Day

There are times when it is easy to believe that justice will never be served. That those who have power will do as they please without fear of retribution. That the young system of international justice we have been building for sixty years is only so much eye candy.

And then there are days like today.

Gotcha! Traffic stop in Kosovo. © Damaso Reyes

Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Serbia, was arrested and will soon be spending some quality time at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Accused of being responsible for the 1995 massacre of Muslim women and children in Srebrenica, Karadzic has been on the lam for more than a decade. For years the international community demanded that Serbia turn him over. The Serbians said they had no idea where he was.

It turns out he was in Serbia, not too far from the capital Belgrade, allegedly posing as a traditional healer. His arrest and trial will close a dark chapter in the recent history of Europe. The civil war that broke out as a result of the collapse of Yugoslavia was long and bloody and utterly preventable if the international community, especially the European Union, had been quicker to intervene.

Today it is generally believed that something like that could not happen. But when push comes to shove will the citizens of the E.U. be willing to send their sons and daughters to die to prevent innocents from being massacred once again on European soil?

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